By the grace of God and the mercy of my readers, I have successfully defended my dissertation! The prayers of my friends and acquaintances were gratefully appreciated. I am also grateful to those who went out of their way to support me, and to my three proofreaders. You all know who you are! This morning I will make some final changes before printing out copies for the library, but I have passed my defense and will be graduating with a Ph.D. in New Testament this month (this summer, though, I've got some more work to do to try to make this something that can especially contribute to scholarship).
The next few posts on this blog will be a discussion of doctoral work and dissertations.
My readers were Dr. David Alan Black (my advisor), Dr. David Beck (also from Southeastern), and Dr. Gene L. Green (from Wheaton). My title is "A Foreknown Destiny for the Socially Destitute: An Examination of 1 Peter's Concept of Foreknowledge in the Establishment of Social-Spiritual Identity."
My abstract is as follows:
"Much has been written on the social and spiritual status of the audience of 1 Peter. Scholarship has not, however, devoted much space to exploring how foreknowledge in the first section of 1 Peter relates to the development of social and spiritual identity. First of all, most scholars see the terms prognwsis (1 Pet 1:2) and proginwskw (1:20) as representing either God's foreordination or his previous commitment to a relationship with believers (i.e., "loving beforehand"). Secondly, virtually nobody has discussed how these two terms, together with the concept of foreknowledge in 1 Pet 1:10-12, factor into 1 Peter's argumentation and theology from 1:1-2:10.
This dissertation will attempt to demonstrate that foreknowledge in the first major section of 1 Peter acts as a word of comfort to offset the audience's status of social displacement, ultimately pointing them towards their new social status as a new community bound to Jesus Christ. In the process of developing this thesis, this study will explore both social scientific criticism and lexical semantics.
Regarding the former, this study will interact with John H. Elliott's A Home for the Homeless and its critics, defending Elliott's contention that 1 Peter's audience consisted of literal strangers (i.e., the socially displaced) while acknowledging that this concept of social displacement functions as a broader, spiritual paradigm regarding the relationship of the Christian to the world.
Secondly, this study will examine every occurrence of prognwsis (1 Pet 1:2) and proginwskw (1 Pet 1:20) in the literature of A.D. 1-100 and the Septuagint, demonstrating that he overwhelming sense of these words is "prescience" (knowledge of the future or the act of knowing the future). This study then examines 1 Pet 1:1-2, 10-12, and 20 within their immediate contexts in the epistle.
Finally, this study examines the concepts of foreknowledge and social identity within the broader scope of 1 Peter's theology. It is demonstrated how foreknowledge acts as a bridge from the state of displacement to the new state of the believer's social identity in Christ. In this way, foreknowledge acts as a word of comfort in 1 Peter, for both the present, negative circumstances of the epistle's audience and their ultimate destiny (bound up with Christ) have forever existed in the mind of God and are a part of his grand master plan."
On the plus side, I believe this is the only study to date that actually looks at every single occurrence of prognwsis and proginwskw within the literature of the 1st century (A.D.). Also, this is one of the few studies that actually provides a substantial defense of Elliott's work (for the most part; there's one area I do disagree with him, but I mostly defend him). Some areas for improvement (among others) brought up by the readers include a tendency to overstate my case (to the potential alienation of some of the readers I'm trying to convince), not enough work on the communities of Asia Minor and their social makeup, not enough work on "foreknowledge" as a concept (including an examination of other words that refer to foreknowledge and also the need for more awareness of Greco-Roman discussions of foreknowledge during this period), and the need for more work discussing linguistic theory that would challenge my own methodology.
Also, my advisor strongly suggests that I need to have mastered Latin at this point rather than relying on translations (note to self: start working on that this summer!) He was pleased that I provided my own translations for most other languages, though. Let the reader note: you don't have to be a brilliant linguist (like my dissertation readers!) to be able to utilize German and French without relying on a translation. Honestly, I was one of the worst students in Southeastern's theological German class (I got a "conditional pass," which meant I had to do extra work that summer to pass the class), but I worked hard at developing adequate translations of my German sources within my dissertation, deliberately ignoring available translations (e.g., for Goppelt's classic commentary, I go with the German instead of the English). I stress again: I'm not the smartest with languages (much less than I used to think, in fact, despite growing up bilingual), but it's less a matter of intelligence and more a matter of willingness to spend a lot of time working through a work in its original language. (one other note: the old printed script German is extremely difficult to read! Seriously!!)
One final note: I am extremely grateful for a very balanced critique by my outsider reader. His comments are gracious and fair (despite the fact that I know there's at least two key points of my dissertation that are at odds with material he's published!) Dr Green's comments will form the basis of my revisions this summer (if the Lord wills, assuming I don't decide to run off and join the circus and leave academia behind forever! :) Fellow ph.d. students will know what I mean). I am also grateful for a very encouraging dialogue with Drs. Black and Beck. Overall, the defense was a very positive (though long!) experience (we started at 2 pm, and I think by the time Dr. Black was done with me it was about quarter to 4).